In medicine, particularly optometry and ophthalmology, refraction is a clinical test in which a phoropter may be used by the eye care professional to determine the eye’s refractive error and the best corrective lenses to be prescribed. A series of test lenses in graded optical powers or focal lengths are presented to determine which provides the sharpest, clearest vision. Once known, the eye care professional is able to prescribe appropriate spectacles for the patient who will now be able to see with clarity when wearing them.

Organisational culture (what we believe, value and the way we do things around here) is a lens which drives behaviour and determines where employees place their focus and energy. It communicates performance that will be rewarded and behaviour that will be censured. It suggests appropriate ways of relating to leadership, fellow colleagues and customers. It sets the professional standards and highlights expected work ethic levels. It is a strong indicator of whether a company will reach strategic objectives and subsequent targets or not. It is an essential component of building the brand and establishing organisational credibility. It defines the desirability of working for the company and impacts the retention of good talent. Culture is foundational.

Organisational leadership has the largest impact on shaping the culture – in giving the correct lenses to bring clarity to expectations that relate to attitude, focus and behaviour. Leadership example sets the standards and should demonstrate the values, clarify the vision and narrow the focus to key deliverables. All in leadership need to note the following aspects of culture (adapted from the Integrated Cultural Framework by Hofstede, Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck) where refocusing may be required:

  • Ability to influence – the extent to which employees have the opportunity to influence decision-making
  • Achievement orientation – the extent to which employees are assertive, goal-directed and achievement oriented
  • Comfort with ambiguity – the extent to which staff are comfortable with uncertainty and taking risks
  • Individualism versus collectivism – the extent to which individual versus group loyalty exists
  • Egalitarianism – the extent to which equal opportunity exists for advancement
  • Time-orientation – the extent to which the organisational goal/mission is focused on values from the past, present or future
  • Space-orientation – the extent to which the physical layout of the organisation is public, private or a combination of both

Shifting a culture that has to some extent moved away from its former position or establishing a new culture is a leadership function. Leaders need to provide cultural lenses – strategic and behavioural actions and expectations that empower, enable and educate all employees to bring about focus and energy applied appropriately.

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